Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a lady in a grey dress 1655 c.

John Michael Wright (16171694)

Portrait of a lady in a grey dress, John Michael Wright
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Oil on canvas
17th Century
23 x 19 inches 58.4 x 48.2 cm
 
John Michael Wright was born in London 1617 of Scottish parents. Despite being a resident of London he was sent back to Scotland between 1636 and 1641 to be apprenticed to George Jamesone in Edinburgh. Shortly after this Wright travelled to Rome where he remained until 1653/4, when he took up a position as Antiquary to Archduke Leopold.

In 1656 he returned to Britain, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. He enjoyed a wide circle of patronage, especially among Catholics and developed a style uniquely suited to portraying intelligence and character. He was close enough to Charles II to style himself pictor regius although the formal basis for this is not known. The abdication of James II ended his hopes of Royal patronage, and died in 1694 without ever having the attained the eminence that his accomplished and highly individual style deserved.

This portrait of an unknown woman, who has been compared to Princess Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans (1644-1670), is typical of the haunting sense of character that Wright conveys. He would appear to have been far more interested in conveying intelligence that rivals such as Lely, and here, as always, we sense that we are in the presence of an alert and enquiring mind.
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